Tuesday, 27 February 2007

MTAS and its corruptible nature

The Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) was brought in with MMC to make the selection process fairer and more meritocratic. The centralised scheme was designed to make applying for a job easy and straightforward. If only things were that way.

I will be careful with my words. Firstly the application system is fundamentally flawed by allocating such a high percentage of marks to the short answer questions. I would argue that it is impossible to effectively discriminate between candidates using this skewed approach.

Each of these short answer questions was marked out of four marks and many problems have stemmed from the rigid marking scheme, as well as the weighting of marks in a way that virtually ignores examinations and other achievements. The MTAS process has not been audited or validated properly either.

" MMC profiteers. Get hold of a copy of Hospital doctor this week as RemedyUK help expose the burgeoning industry of people making a fast buck out of desperate doctors looking to buff up their application form. Of note is one MALVENA STUART TAYLOR, ASSOCIATE DEAN of Wessex Deanery, charging £129 to each of the 100 doctors desperate enough to show up for basic advice on filling out the application form. Helpfully included in her lowbrow 3 ½ hour lecture on the principles and background of MMC/MTAS etc (made possible by industry leaders www.123doc.com) was a seminar aimed at selling financial advice, particularly well received by attendees given their current situation."

I quote from RemedyUK above. They also found that around 1 in 5 SHOs had received formalised advice on filling in their forms.

The muck does not stop flying. Many candidates were helped in filling in their forms by consultants who had insider knowledge as they were involved in the marking and short listing process. Word on the street indicates that confidential marking schemes found their way to some candidates giving them an unfair advantage. Word on the street also tells me that there have been cases of printed confidential marking schemes being handed out to juniors by consultants. The rigid marking schemes meant that the system was inherently biased against doctors who had not been through this bizarre application process before. There are even rumours of even worse.

There have been several examples of companies profiteering thanks to insider knowledge.


This course, run by associate deans, claimed that it would help you 'take advantage' of the MMC process. I cannot see much difference between this and 'cheating'. This is by no means an isolated example. MTAS have also admitted that there is no system to ensure that short listing has been completed by all applicants; this is completely unacceptable.

MTAS and MMC were railroaded through under the promise of a fairer application process for all. I fail to see any evidence of this, it seems that the converse is true. The old system was by no means perfect, but no system is perfect; however by using CVs and local applications the process was much more meritocratic that today's. Doctors with greater experience, more motivation and more achievements had a fair advantage in the old system. The CV is a tried and tested selection tool that is still used to this day by all major companies. It is eminently less corruptible.

This tried and tested method has been replaced with an untried and untested farce. Doctors who lie, who cheat and who are assisted by those with insider knowledge are given a massively unfair advantage. While many of the best doctors with the most achievements are left out in the cold, because they did not fill in a few politically correct questions very well and because they did not lie or cheat. This is what MMC and MTAS has produced, a selection process that is not even as good as a roulette wheel; the roulette wheel is not as corruptible.

It is hard to sum up the human cost as a result of this selection sham. There are juniors who have worked their fingers to the bone for several years with the aim of a job in their chosen specialty. They have passed all the neccessary tests and examinations, they have attended all the relevant courses, they have worked hard to get material published and they have done this all while holding down a rather demanding full time job. Some of these juniors are supporting just themselves, but many are supporting partners and small children while they do all this. They are juniors who have a burning desire for their particular specialty and will be forced to emigrate thanks to recent events. How this new system is going to be good for medicine in the UK is quite beyond me.

Some of us have been lucky, this is true, but can we really sleep at night knowing that some of the best candidates out there have not got a single interview. Some of these juniors are family members, some are friends, but the vast majority are people we will never meet. Doesn't it feel a tiny bit hollow getting an interview when you know that the selection process is such a joke? Imagine how it will feel to get a job in your chosen specialty; it won't feel as satisfying as when the selection process was fair, there will be a nasty nagging emptiness inside of you that will eat away at you because so many juniors have been treated so very unfairly.

There are signs that the MTAS beast may be wounded, the media are starting to take an interest in what can only be described as a massive scandal:



Dr Crippen is spot on as ever: http://nhsblogdoc.blogspot.com/

This momentum needs to be kept up, the apologists for MTAS must be made to eat their hollow words, this battle must be won.

Watch this space.

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